The downtown avant-garde art scene has thrived on acts of transgression and subcultural resistance. This course will explore what is implied by the concept of a "minor history," a term employed by Mike Kelley and Tony Oursler to define an artistic practice that defies assimilation into mainstream cultural politics. Minor histories resist specialization and professionalism, opting instead for interdisciplinary experimentation and a DIY anti-aesthetic. Mapping this idea through a cultural history of artist-run spaces and nonprofit galleries, we will analyze how the subcultural landscape of downtown Manhattan has shifted from the late 1960s to the early 2000s. As part of our mapping project, we will investigate downtown alternative arts spaces-including Food, The Kitchen, Franklin Furnace, Thread Waxing Space, White Columns, Participant-that fostered new creative practices and perspectives. Through this process, we will encounter and examine a number of radical figures, such as Jack Smith, Yoko Ono, Tony Conrad, Lydia Lunch, Karen Finley, David Wojnarowicz and Ann Magnuso, all of whom represent important "minor histories" of NYC underground arts culture.
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